A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen


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In Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, Torvald and his wife, Nora,
live a middle class, conservative life with three children. Nora stays
at home while Torvald works as a manager at a bank. Previously, when
Torvald was sick, Nora forged her father's signature on a bond to
receive money for a trip to Italy so Torvald could recover. Only Nils
Krogstad, another man at the bank, and Nora's best friend, Linde, know
about her terrible secret. Linde and Krogstad have also failed in
society like Nora: Krogstad has performed the same act of forgery, and
Linde had to work to support her family while most women stayed at
home. Nora and Torvald succeed in society but their relationship
fails. Ironically, Krogstad and Linde maintain a true relationship
although they are both failures. They are able to be honest with each
other, converse seriously, and have both been wronged by society.
Therefore, they are already exposed to criticism of the world.

Krogstad and Linde are able to be honest with each other while Nora
and Torvald are not. Although Krogstad committed a serious crime and
Linde was forced to work to support her family, both of these burdens
have already been removed from them. Therefore, they are able to be
open because they have no secrets left to conceal. Linde tells
Krogstad she believes they must "have a complete understanding [...]
which is impossible with [...] concealment and falsehood [...]" (52).
Nora keeps a dangerous secret from Torvald in order for them to still
appear "normal" to society. Consequently, they are not honest with
each other so they cannot keep their marriage together. Nora pretends
to "be someone she is not in order to fulfill the role that Torvald,
her father, and society at large have expected of her" (Gillis). She
is also wronged because she is led to believe "she was happy, that she
was an ideal wife, and that her husband loves her" (Goonetilleke) only
to find out he impulsively refuses to stay with her because she has
committed a crime.

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Mrs. Linde and Krogstad are also able to have serious conversations.
In Act III, they communicate their needs to one another and discuss
how they should forget their pasts and move on to live a happy life
together. They can communicate well because they do not treat each
other as inferiors, which is very dissimilar to Torvald who constantly
calls his wife his "little featherhead" (4) and his "little skylark"
(6). He treats her as though she is a fragile child and, therefore,
they are unable to communicate on a serious level. Because they cannot
openly express their needs, they cannot keep their relationship
strong. He "instructs her with trite, moralistic sayings" (Gillis) and
also "imposes his [self-interest] because it satisfies his vanity and
makes her subservient to him" (Goonetilleke). Although he has a decent
job and loves to take care of and guide his wife, Torvald is
ironically unable to communicate with Nora on a serious level.

Krogstad and Mrs. Linde have both been wronged by society and are
therefore already exposed to outside criticism yet they can still be
together. In their discussion, Mrs. Linde says, "Nils, how would it be
if we two shipwrecked people could join forces [...] [t]wo on the same
piece of wreckage would stand a better chance than each on their own"
(51). Since they have no secrets to hide, they can maintain a healthy
marriage. After Torvald finds out Nora's secret, he immediately tells
her she has "ruined [his] future" (60) and that he is "in the power of
an unscrupulous man" (60). The man refers to the world that will
openly criticize him. Nora realizes "her need for rebellion [...],
culminating in her walking out on her husband and children to find
independence" (Gillis). Although Linde and Krogstad are both failures,
they ironically form a bond that is stronger than Nora and Torvald's
who live as a normal family and have succeeded in society.

Nora and Torvald succeed in society but their relationship fails.
Ironically, Krogstad and Linde maintain a true relationship although
they are both failures. They are able to be honest with each other,
converse seriously, and have both been wronged by society. Therefore,
they are already exposed to criticism of the world.

Works Cited

Gillis, G. J. and Westhagen, Jen. SparkNote on A Doll's House. 1 Apr.
2004

.

Goonetilleke, D.C.R.A. "A Doll's House: Overview" in Reference Guide
to World

Literature. 2nd ed. Ed. Lesley Henderson. St. James Press, 1995.

Ibsen, Henrik. Four Great Plays. Trans. R. Farquharson Sharp. Bantom
Books: New

York, 1959.


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